The Nets arrived for practice Monday riding a winning streak. Now that’s something you don’t usually hear.
After losing eight straight games, the Nets had a constructive players-only video session and then swept their Friday-Saturday home-away set. They edged NBA-best Toronto, 106-105, in overtime at Barclays Center and beat the Knicks, 112-104, at the Garden to snap a 33-game road losing streak in the second half of back-to-backs to move to 10-18.
It’s only the Nets’ second winning streak of the season. Now they will try to match their season high of three straight victories on Wednesday in Philadelphia against the 76ers (19-9).
The two games after that are at home against losing teams. In fact, six of the next seven are in Brooklyn, and five of the seven are against teams that currently are .500 or worse. The road date is with Chicago, which lost at home to Boston on Saturday — by 56!
So if they’re up to it, the Nets could get on a little roll here.
“We certainly hope so,” Spencer Dinwiddie said after this first of two consecutive days of practice at HSS Training Center. “That’s for sure. Certainly hope so.”
With a rebuilding team, however, there are no givens. Looking beyond the thrill of victory on back-to-back nights, coach Kenny Atkinson still saw rough edges.
“Happy obviously with the wins, but I do think we still have a lot of areas to improve in terms of closing out games,” Atkinson said. “I even felt the Knicks game, we made some mistakes.
“So it’s a great time to teach. It’s better to teach through a win, dealing with protecting a lead, protecting the ball when we have a lead, taking good shots, defensive execution.”
They did show improvement defensively and with rebounding in the wins, but Atkinson still emphasized the board work on video and in practice.
“We’re going to keep hammering it,” he said, “because we should be able to control that a little better than we are, quite honestly.”
The Nets have split two home games with the 76ers. Brooklyn won, 122-97, on Nov. 4. Then Philadelphia acquired Jimmy Butler. In the Nov. 25 rematch, the Nets experienced one of their eight defeats in which they lost a double-digit lead. They fell, 127-125, on Butler’s last-second three-pointer over Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.
“I contested it,” Hollis-Jefferson said. “It went in. The basketball gods were on his side.”
The basketball gods surely know what this team needs to do to find a steadier stream of positive results. The Nets certainly know.
“We have to focus on maintaining leads and closing out games just in a general sense,” Dinwiddie said, “but mostly that last play.”